Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, rated PG-13
****

Mission Impossible: Fallout, the sixth film based on the television series that ran from 1966 – 1973, is an exciting, non-stop action film, one of the best films of the year. The film is directed by Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). McQuarrie, who also wrote the screenplay, directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  The film had a budget of $178 million, and made that back with an opening weekend worldwide gross of in excess of $205 million.
This film picks up the storyline from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It is set two years after Ethan Hunt, played by three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Magnolia, Born on the Fourth of July), had captured anarchist Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Remaining members of Lane’s organization called the Syndicate have since formed into a group calling themselves the Apostles. They have a belief that suffering leads to peace. They have been working with a mysterious John Lark inside of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) to obtain three plutonium cores to create three bombs. Hunt has to get the plutonium back, but Lane, who Hunt left alive rather than killing, is working with the Apostles, even though he is in custody.
Ethan is sent to Berlin to find Lark before he buys the plutonium by his boss Alan Hunley, played by Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler). Ethan meets Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, and Luther Stickell, played by Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames (Don King: Only in America) in Berlin, but the mission to buy the plutonium fails when Ethan chooses to save Luther’s life. The plutonium is taken by the Apostles.
CIA Director Erica Sloan, played by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do With It) Hunley’s boss, insists on sending one of her agents, August Walker, played by Henry Cavill (Superman films) along with Ethan to Paris to insure the mission is successfully completed. We don’t know who to trust. It appears that Baldwin and Sloan, as well as Ethan and Walker, are working against each other.
Ethan and Walker make a thrilling HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jump through a thunderstorm into Paris. Cruise trained for an entire year to perform that stunt. In Paris they attend a fundraiser party where Lark is set to buy the plutonium from the Apostles, with an arms dealer known as the White Widow, played by Emmy nominee Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), acting as a broker.
Will Ethan and his team, including Ilsa Faust, played by Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) along with Walker be able to get the plutonium and keep the Apostles from using it to create incredible suffering? And are Ethan and Walker really on the same team?
The film has a number of exciting car chases, incredible stunts and double-crosses. It takes place in Berlin, Paris, London and Kashmir and features stunning shots from those locations, courtesy of cinematography by Rob Hardy (Annihilation). The film features a strong cast, with many members returning from previous films in the series, along with a few new additions (Bassett, Cavill).
Content issues include some adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ name, and a significant amount of violence.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is a thrilling, non-stop action film with great visuals and stunts. It’s overly long at nearly two and a half hours, but that is my only complaint about this excellent film.

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My Review of THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

The Greatest Showman, rated PG
*** ½

The Greatest Showman is a very entertaining and well-made musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, featuring excellent new songs by the Oscar winning lyricists from La La Land. The film, which has received three Golden Globe nominations, is directed by Michael Gracey in his directorial debut, and is written by Emmy winner Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City) and Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). The musical score is by Oscar nominee John Debney (The Passion of the Christ) and Joseph Trapanese. The film includes eleven new songs written by Oscar (La La Land) and Tony (Dear Evan Hansen) Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina, Atonement).
Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) portrays the legendary 19th century promoter Phineas Taylor P.T. Barnum. Jackman read approximately three dozen books about Barnum to prepare for the role.
The film opens with the title song performed in a big song and dance production number. Jackman, with his Broadway experience, is excellent in his performance as Barnum.
We then see a flashback in which Barnum, a young and impoverished tailor’s son, played by Ellis Rubin, first meets the privileged but sweet Charity, played by Skylar Dunn. We see them fall in love, but Charity’s father tells P.T. to stay away from his daughter, who is then sent away to a boarding school. But we see them stay in touch through letters. The film moves forward a dozen or so years, with Jackman portraying Barnum, and four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), portraying his now wife Charity.
Barnum longs to make something of himself. He and Charity have dreams that they sing about in “A Million Dreams”. As time goes on, the family grows with two daughters but they struggle financially. When things are really desperate, in 1841 Barnum comes up with an idea for a new kind of entertainment. He decides to open a museum/theatre in the heart of New York City. At first, he doesn’t have any success. Then his daughters suggest that he feature real people, not stuffed animals and displays, so he decides to look for people with special talents and also some with physical abnormalities (bearded lady, Siamese twins, dwarf, giant, etc.). This leads to what we now know as the circus. Although he now has success, Barnum and his circus face a significant amount of protests, some of them violent.
Barnum convinces the socialite playwright Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron (High School Musical) to become his business partner; together they sing “The Other Side”. But this is much to the chagrin of Phillip’s parents. They are even more displeased when Phillip falls in love with Anne Wheeler, played by Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming), a beautiful black trapeze artist in the show. Zendaya does all of her own trapeze stunts in the film. She and Phillip perform “Rewrite the Stars” about their love that has so many obstacles.
Barnum achieves great success with the circus, but he longs for greater social acceptance. He is never satisfied, though Charity loves and accepts him just as he is, and tells him that she has everything she needs in their life. To try to gain more acceptance in higher social circles, Barnum brings opera singer Jenny Lind, “The Swedish Nightingale”, to the United States for a very successful tour. He wants her to be known as the best singer in the world.  Lind is played by Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen), but whose singing in the film is actually performed by Loren Allred.  She offers a powerful performance of “Never Enough”. But as Barnum becomes charmed with Jenny and fame, he abandons the circus, leaving it to Carlyle to run.
I’m not usually a fan of movie musicals. But I really enjoyed The Greatest Showman. It is a film that the entire family can enjoy this holiday season. You’re most likely going to want to check out the movie soundtrack after seeing this film. Jackman excels in his role as P.T. Barnum, as someone with great dreams and imagination. This has been a dream project for Jackman since 2009, and seems to be a role that he was born to play. Efron also delivers a strong performance as Phillip Carlyle. Tony nominee Lettie Lutz shines as the bearded lady, particularly as she performs the song “This is Me”. Williams, one of today’s best actresses, is strong in a smaller role. The film features excellent dance choreography by Ashley Wallen. I also appreciated the costumes and production design in this film. Themes include classism, friendship and treating others who are different from us with kindness and dignity.
Note: Ironically, on May 21, 2017, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, founded by P.T. Barnum closed down operations after 146 years. The circus had come under attack for exploitation and animal abuse, and was suffering from declining attendance.